Their Story

He spilled paint on her hair once in the third grade.

She was new and in his art class, innocently painting a picture of a cow until a wave of purple splashed over her. Instead of screaming like the other girls in the class, she blinked a few times before sitting up straighter, surprised at the thick liquid in her hair. And instead of going into a rage and beating up the scrawny eight-year-old, she turned to him and told him solemnly, "I don't like the color purple."

And she went back to her painting, like nothing was wrong.

And he wondered why she didn't react. He would wonder about that for a long time, until in 9th grade, freshman year, he found out that her biological parents had left her. And she kept going from foster home to foster home because of her anger problems. Before she had moved to his school, she had been in nine different homes in nine different states.

And at the tenth one, she stopped. She stopped being angry, she stopped being happy, she stopped be sad, she stopped feeling. Because honestly, she was tired of leaving all the time. She wanted what other kids had, what other families had. She wanted that kind of love, for once.

But she wouldn't find it until he decided that he liked her. Because her foster parents were nice, but they clearly favored their own biological child over her. And she knew that. And she accepted that.

Because that was who they were.

Then in their sophomore year, he suddenly noticed that she had a figure. That her once-plain brown hair was long and wavy and that it shone in the sunlight. That her childish freckles would fade into her once-pale and now tan face.

He suddenly noticed her.

So, of course, he asked her out. Many times. Because when he first asked, she didn't even look up.

"No," she told him blatantly, turning a page in her book. But he kept at it until she finally broke.

It was near winter break when she finally said yes. Her exact words were: "Yes, fine, okay, just leave me the hell alone."

And, of course, to respond to that, he kissed her on the cheek. She pushed him into the snow right after she slipped a piece of paper with her phone number on it into one of his coat pockets.

He called her often and saw her during the break. On Christmas, they awkwardly brought out their first gifts for each other. Hers was a watch for him. His was a pair of earrings for her.

She laughed when she saw the gift, causing his jaw to drop. "My ears aren't pierced," she explained with a sweet smile. It was his first time ever seeing her react to something, and he decided he liked it. So he cupped the back of her neck and brought his lips to hers in a sweet kiss.

And slowly, but surely, they fell in love with one another. January, February, March, April, May, and June rolled by until they were suddenly in the summer. They spent a lot of time with each other, including her meeting his family, and him meeting her foster family. She found out that he was afraid of crocodiles and he found out that she didn't like to swim.

He also found out that she loved to paint. When they went to the beach, she brought a small sketchbook and some charcoals. She would sketch the sun, the scenery, and him, and when they went home, she transferred everything onto her easel.

He loved to watch her paint. He even kept a few of them; after she offered, of course.

She said that she loved to paint because it made her feel important. "Like, without me, there's nothing but a blank easel and a clean palette," she tried to explain.

He loved her. And she loved him.

But they never said it to each other. It was more like an unspoken agreement.

Then junior year began and the two saw less of each other, but they both shared a lunch period and a free period. Sometimes they went off campus and sometimes they stayed in the library. It didn't really matter; they just wanted to be together.

Until one of his friends said something.

"Dude, you spend so much time with her," a friend had complained one day. He was about to retort when he realized that his friend's words were true; he was almost always with her.

It only took eight words to have him questioning his relationship with her. They hadn't slept together, they hadn't said 'I love you' to each other, they hadn't talked about what they're going to do for college, nothing. Did he really want to be in a relationship that's not going anywhere? He wondered and wondered until he saw her walking towards him.

"Hey," she said with a smile at him. She was smiling much more now; and it wasn't just that. Sometimes, she would confide in him how angry she was at her foster parents, and she would scream and yell and cry. And only he got to see it.

But he didn't realize how much she had changed for him. And when she gently pressed her lips against his, he thought about their relationship again.

Did he really want to be in a relationship that's not going anywhere?

He looked into her dark blue eyes. He looked at the very faint freckles she still had. He looked at the curve of her lips and the line of her jaw.

No, a part of him screamed. No, he didn't want to be in this relationship anymore. Because he couldn't be held down by someone who's not thinking about the future. No. No more.

Later, he would realize how wrong his thinking was. Later, he would want to kill the friend that made him question his relationship. Later, he would be too late.

And he felt soft fingers caressing his jaw line. She asked him what was wrong and he sighed and told her, "We need to talk."

"Oh," she replied, "that's a great idea. Let's talk, right now." She grabbed his hand the pulled him over to the school fountain, sitting on its wide edge. She pulled both his hands into her lip and grinned at him.

"Um... you go first," he told her.

"No you go," she replied. "You suggested it."

"But you went along with it."

"But you didn't argue."

"But you didn't give me a chance."

"So you're going first," she declared after their pointless bickering. That was another thing: they were almost always arguing. Later, he would cherish that. But now, he hated it.

"Just-Just say whatever you have to say," he said impatiently. Her hold on his hands faltered a little, so he took that opportunity to snatch his hands back. She glanced down at the fountain before taking in a deep breath.

While she did that, he wondered how he had put up with that for so long. Why did he suddenly think she was annoying?

"Okay," she said finally, looking him in the eyes. "I lo--"

"I don't want to date you anymore," he cut in, the words bursting out of him. He could see his words register in her mind and whatever pain she felt was reflected in her eyes. Because he didn't have to say those words; he could've said something kinder. But no.

He had to say that he didn't want to date her. That he didn't want her.

She pressed her hands up against her mouth for a moment, staring at the water in the fountain. After a moment, she removed them and nodded. "All right. I understand," she said to him. "No more dating. That's fine." When she stood up, he felt a quick pang in his chest. She turned to leave.

"Wait," he called. She looked at him. "Friends?"

"Whatever," she said quietly before leaving. Somehow, staring at her back, he could see her shutting down all the emotions she once had when they were together. Good-bye anger, good-bye sadness, good-bye happiness.

Because all she really wanted was some love for herself.

And the one who gave it to her didn't want her. He said so himself.

And she would get better. Because she was used to people not wanting her. It comes with the whole foster kid thing. But her grades were slipping. And she was getting less sleep. And the people who usually hung out with her hadn't seen her in days.

Because she was hiding. She was getting ready to leave. She was making herself inconspicuous, so that no one would remember her after she was gone. She would make a clean break.

Piss off the parents and run. She hadn't done it in over five years, but she knew how to make them hate her. And even if they tried to keep her, she could just run away.

One thought comforted her. A little.

And that was that someone, for a time, had loved her. She had been loved. Because at some point, he must've loved, or at least cared about her.

And that was enough for her.